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Getting a Read on Reggae

Music Festival at Lake Casitas Helps Provide Books for Schoolrooms in Jamaica


It was all about the vibes at the Lake Casitas Recreation Area on Saturday.

Thandiwe Eshe felt them. The spunky 5-year-old flailed her arms in the air as she chased down the giant bubbles she made with a large circular wand.

"I like the big ones," she said. "They're jiggly."

So did Lori and Phillip Norris, who on stage are known as the reggae group Fire and Brimstone.

"I love the venue," she said. "It's fabulous."

And the vibes are what brought Port Hueneme resident Carl Erickson and his 18-month-old daughter, Sidney Blaze, to the second annual Lake Casitas World Rhythms & Reggae Festival--along with about 2,000 other smiling, head-bobbing reggae music fans.

"This is awesome--just what I came here for," Erickson said as he watched his daughter toddle around in circles to the beat of the music.

The daylong festival was a benefit for Bookshacks for Jamaicans, a nonprofit group formed by Clair Gottsdanker and Giselle Harris and based in Santa Barbara and Sheffield, Jamaica. The organization provides books to schools and helps build reading rooms in Jamaica.

"It's been going very well," Gottsdanker said.

A pickup truck full of donated books--everything from the classics to Pokemon--sat outside the entrance to the festival. They will be sent to the Caribbean island--along with thousands of books donated by organizations, schools and libraries from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles--courtesy of Air Jamaica, Gottsdanker said.

Although the event was for a good cause, most who came to Lake Casitas were more interested in grooving to the relaxing music, filling up on traditional Jamaican cuisine and browsing booths selling everything from incense to brightly colored hats and scarves.

"I love this whole vibe," said Bobbie Miller, who runs San Diego-based Tribal Trends, peddling hats, accessories and clothing from India, Indonesia and Jamaica. "What I like about reggae festivals is I would pay to come anyway. This way, I can meet good people, listen to good music and make a little money."

The same was true for Kent and Tricia Tracy, who ran an eclectic clothing booth inspired by their Oakhurst-based store, Tricia's Trends.

"The prospect of mixing business with pleasure is a cool thing," Kent Tracy said.

The event was slow to start, with only a handful of blankets and umbrellas set up by 1 p.m., when the King's Chamber Revue--a collection of about 10 reggae bands from Los Angeles--took the stage.

Still, concert-goers danced barefoot in the grass, tossed footballs back and forth, and soaked up sun against the backdrop of a glistening Lake Casitas, where sail boats and fishing boats passed.

Gottsdanker said she expected most of the people to come later in the afternoon and evening to see the headlining act, Andrew Tosh, the oldest son of reggae legend Peter Tosh. Among other bands were George "Fully" Fullwood, Ras Shiloh, Sugar Black and Santa Barbara's The Cannons.

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